Claims of looting at MH17 crash-site

An article in The Wire, citing mostly tabloid and Ukrainian government sources, claims that locals and separatists looted the wreckage of MH17, creating difficulties for forensic investigators.

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Newspapers' unmatched credulity about their own future


American Society of News Editors president David Boardman rails against the happy-talk optimism of the newspaper industry, who insist that the decline isn't that bad and will shortly turn around.

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CHP patrolman videoed beating homeless black woman by roadside

An LA driver caught video of a California Highway Patrolman tackling a homeless black woman walking by the side of the road and then repeatedly punching her in the face.

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How to save the CBC, making it a global online participatory leader

In my latest Guardian column, What Canada's national public broadcaster could learn from the BBC, I look at the punishing cuts to the CBC, and how a shelved (but visionary) BBC plan to field a "creative archive" of shareable and remixable content could help the network lead the country into a networked, participatory future.

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Horror movies and the Haunted Mansion


Long Forgotten continues its masterful inquiry into the horror movies that gave rise to Disney's Haunted Mansion.

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50,000 march against austerity in London, BBC doesn't notice

Joly writes, "It seems the BBC are capable of tracking down a single Scot in Brazil who cheered a goal against England but fail to notice 50,000 demonstrating on their doorstep." The Guardian noticed. There's much bigger stuff -- likely too big for the Beeb to ignore -- coming in October.

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Newspapers' nostalgia has deluded them into thinking print can be "saved"


As Register Newspapers' high-profile paywall experiment implodes, Clay Shirky offers an acerbic obituary and a dire warning in Nostalgia and Newspapers, which discusses the futility of trying to "save" print, and the news industry's enormous, wishful-thinking blindspot about its own business.

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Whistleblower org says it will go to jail rather than turning over its keys


The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) has told the Obama administration that its leaders will go to jail rather than respond to an extrajudicial administrative subpoena seeking the identity of whistleblowers who disclosed corruption in the Veterans' Administration.

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Time-capsule crypto to help journalists protect their sources


Jonathan Zittrain writes, "I published an op-ed in the Boston Globe today musing on the prospects for 'time capsule encryption,' one of several ways of storing information that renders it inaccessible to anyone until certain conditions -- such as the passage of time -- are met. I could see libraries and archives offering such technology as part of accepting papers and manuscripts, especially in the wake of the "Belfast Project" situation, where a library promised confidentiality for accounts of the Troubles in North Ireland, and then found itself amidst subpoenas from law enforcement looking to solve long-cold cases. But the principle could apply to any person or company thinking that there's a choice between leaving information exposed to leakage, or destroying it entirely."

I'm less enthusiastic about this than Jonathan is. I think calibrating the strength of your time-capsule is very hard. If the NSA might be an order of magnitude faster than the rest of us at brute-force cryptanalysis, that means you need to make your 10-year capsule strong enough to last for 100 years just to be on the safe side. Same goes for proof-of-work.

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Kim Dotcom offering $5M bounty for information on how his case was rigged

Kim Dotcom, proprietor of the defunct Megaupload, is convinced that the raid on his company was crooked, and he's put up a $5M bounty on information that will help him prove misdeeds on the part of the US or New Zealand authorities:

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Colbert viewers learned more about super PACs than news-junkies


In Stephen Colbert's Civics Lesson: How Colbert Super PAC Taught Viewers About Campaign Finance in Mass Communication and Society [paywalled], a study by researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, scholars surveyed people whose knowledge of campaign finance issues came from watching The Colbert Report's segments on super PACs. They concluded that, when compared to people who learned about campaign finance from traditional news sources (as opposed to a satirical program), Colbert viewers had a better grasp of the issues, thanks to the satirical structure and the use of narrative. The study specifically calls out the traditional reporterly convention of the "inverted pyramid" as a poor way to capture interest and convey nuance to an audience.

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White, right-wing terrorist busted...and hardly a peep


Last week, the FBI arrested Robert James Talbot Jr., 38, of Katy, Texas. Talbot was the self-styled head of the American Insurgent Movement, which openly plotted to massacre Moslems at mosques and kill them with automatic weapons, sought to rob armored cars, and recruited followers to sow more mayhem. Talbot is a violent Christian fundamentalist who advertised his intention to murder people wholesale.

Kudos to the FBI for arresting this fellow, but as Death and Taxes point out, where the hell was the national panic that attends every arrest of a jihadi terrorist, no matter how cracked and improbable his plan happened to be? Nowhere to be seen.

Now, if this was a recognition by the press that lone kooks are not an existential threat to the world -- even if they are capable of committing horrible, isolated crimes -- I'd be standing up and cheering. But if Talbot had been a brown-skinned conservative Muslim who'd been arrested after planning to attack Christian churches in America with bombs and machine-guns, I suspect there would have been screaming front-page headlines and round-the-clock intensive CNN coverage for days, not to mention grim, determined reporting on Fox News.

Graveyard for overly clever headlines

The Heds Will Roll Tumblr collects headlines that were too weird, offensive, or beyond-the-pale to appear in print. Some examples: "Papa’s Got a Brand New Body Bag" (An article on the death of James Brown); Tea Party Loses Its Mad Hatter (Michelle Bachmann’s announcement that she would not seek another term in Congress); '"The Feminine Mystique" Turns 50, Doesn’t Look a Day Over 30' (A timely Betty Friedan appreciation); "Roof, There It Is!" (A follow-up to a feature story about a city government’s handling of a homelessness crisis). I subscribed! (via Mefi)

Conservative western bloggers: Ukraine strongman's pay-for-play useful idiots

With all the discussion of whether the #Euromaidan protesters are acting on their own behalf or because they've been put up to it by foreign agents, it's worth revisiting an important story from last July. Buzzfeed reported on how the current ruling Ukrainian political party used fronts to pay bribes to American conservative bloggers who posted talking points about its campaign in a hotly contested election

An anonymous whistleblower has revealed that he was paid $500 to post favorable material about the Party of Regions -- the dictatorial Ukrainian ruling party -- during the last election. The payment was allegedly provided by "libertarian media strategist" George Scoville, through a laundering process that allowed the whisteblower and others to conduct their work without registering as foreign agents in DC.

Talking points -- some repeated verbatim -- from the Scoville memos appeared on RedState, Breitbart, and Pajamas Media. Scoville and the writers involved would not confirm or deny that money was changed hands for posts intended to influence the Ukrainian elections.

The writers involved characterize Scoville's memos to them as merely informational, part of the usual mix of material they receive from many sources. I receive a lot of this material, and post some of it -- for example, I have a post scheduled today from the ACLU -- but I always disclose the source of this material, always identify quotes when I use them and do not pass them off as my own words, and I never, ever, ever accept payment for editorial suggestions.

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UK Parliament considers allowing secret courts to issue orders to seize reporters' notebooks

The Deregulation Bill is coming before the UK House of Commons on Monday, and among its many "red-tape-cutting" provisions is one that would allow the courts to grant the police secret hearings in which they could secure orders to seize reporters' notebooks, hard-drives and other confidential material. No one representing the reporters would be allowed to see the evidence in these "closed material procedures."

How the hell did this happen? Sadly, it was absolutely predictable.

When Parliament passed a law permitting secret trials where people who were adverse to the government in court proceedings would not be allowed to see the government's evidence, nor have their lawyers review it, those of us who sounded the alarm were accused of hysterics. The Libdem leadership whipped their MPs on the issue, ordering them to vote for it. Many of us in the Libdem party left over the issue, and the party grandees patronised us on the way out, saying that we didn't understand that the Libdems had put in place "crucial changes," and that somehow, there were changes that could paper over the naked fact of a law permitting secret trials in Britain.

The Libdems' cowardice over secret trials removed any claim they had to being "the party of liberty." Anyone in the party leadership today who expresses surprise at the expansion of the doctrine of secret courts is either an idiot or a bad liar. When future journalists who report on government wrongdoing have their notebooks seized based on secret evidence, the trigger will be pulled by the government of the day -- but the gun was loaded by the Libdems in 2013.

The other parties were crucial to the creation of secret courts, but neither Labour nor the Tories have ever claimed to be "the party of liberty." No one mistook Labour -- creators of RIPA and architects of the world's most advanced surveillance state -- for a party that believed in freedom. Indeed, the Libdems' victories in the last national elections are in large part thanks to widespread disgust with Labour's authoritarianism. And as for Tories, everyone knew that the Nasty Party would happily gut civil liberties faster than you could say "G4S."

The Libdems promised to be a party that would, at last, stand up for freedom. Instead, they sold out out, and we're going to be paying the price for many years to come. There is a world of difference between objecting to the creation of secret courts and the expansion of secret courts. Now that secret courts are a fact of life in the UK, their expansion will always be on the horizon. As soon as "the party of liberty" endorsed the idea that justice could be served when the government could keep secrets from the people who were seeking redress of its wrongs, they set the stage for a mushrooming, toxic doctrine of state secrecy that overrules foundational democratic principles that have been in place since the overthrow of the Star Chamber in 1641.

It is an everlasting shame to the party, and makes me embarrassed to have endorsed them and raised funds for them. Better that they never won a single seat than to have brought us to this pass in British politics in the name of "liberty."

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